The anti-racism movement should not expect people of color to empathetically listen to white racism skeptics. On a daily basis, they must endure the indirect expression of white skepticism that racism really matters, and they must do so as they are experiencing overt and subtle racism in many parts of their lives. It is, therefore, an act of privilege for a white ally to let their anger at racism skeptics drive their responses to racially problematic statements. Acting out of anger is not doing very much for people of color and in fact is harmful because the anger only entrenches the views of racism skeptics. Compared to people of color, white people are in a much better position to execute listening-based strategy with people who are skeptical about whether racism is real. Those race conversations also have a special importance because they are free of “racial anxiety” (this term refers to the extra nervousness that often happens in cross-racial conversations). What happens in 1-on-1 conversations among whites is important.
This is easier said than done…
Thankfully, the number of white people who consider themselves allies against racism is growing. However, many of these people are more comfortable talking about racism with people they agree with (whites and people of color) than talking about race with people they disagree with. White people who think that racism is a problem often get frustrated or even agree when people in their circles of influence demonstrate views that are overtly racist or are notably racially problematic. These comments create a dilemma for the white ally. If they say nothing, they are subject to feeling guilty later about their unwillingness to step up to the chance to make a difference. On the other hand, if they firmly correct the person with a remark or short lecture they risk creating an awkward argument or harming their relationship with the person.
This project is aimed at engaging, empowering, and equipping white anti-racism allies so that they can confidently lean into these moments, make good choices, and walk away with justified satisfaction that did their part in the on-going struggle against racism. We provide guidance on how best to engage their racism-skeptical friends, relatives, and colleagues in racial dialogue. We also cultivate and maintain a community of practice where allies can share successes and reflect on tactics in 1-on-1 and small group engagement.
Everyone is looking for a way to effect meaningful change.
Based on our decades of experience in helping people have productive encounters across divides in how people think about race, we have designed The RACE Method (Reflect, Ask, Connect, Expand). It is best suited for managing conversations about racism and particularly productive in 1-on-1 and very small group encounters between white people. The Race Method requires the ally to draw out the skeptic’s views and consciously attempt to set aside whatever emotional reaction might have. It is based on three principles: